In 2013 I wrote the post Can I be blunt. In light of the current erosion in our Nation’s capital (I mean YOU #45), I felt it was a good time to update and re-post it, and remind everyone that while it is paramount that we be truthful with each other, tact is even more important!
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What’s the difference between tact and blunt? When you are being honest are you tactful in your delivery, or are you being blunt? Do you make a conscious decision when to invoke either approach or is your personality simply always tactful or always blunt? Well, let me be blunt … I recommend using both at the same time.
The dictionary defines tactful as: “a sense of what is fitting and considerate in dealing with others, so as to avoid giving offence; having skill or judgment in handling difficult or delicate situations.”
Blunt has a much more, well…blunt, definition: “lacking subtlety; straightforward and uncomplicated, quick and to the point.” Also many people who wrongly pride themselves on being blunt, are really being rude. There’s a very short and fine line between bluntness and rudeness. Clearly our current President has ample rude-bluntness (one of the selling points for those who voted for him), and none of the tact (again, sadly, one of his selling points to his fans).
While I am a huge proponent of being blunt (I do think there’s too much candy-coating these days), I only advocate bluntness when it is colored with tact. Tact is the tempering that keeps bluntness from being rude.
I bring this up today because I find that often my clients aren’t honest with themselves or those around them, and a little “cutting to the chase” (i.e., being blunt) could really help them move forward in their lives. If this resonates with you, read on…
For me, being blunt means speaking straight to the point in a quick and honest way. I don’t like to tiptoe around an issue, hoping that the recipient gets the gist of what I’m trying to say, and with the sentiment that I intended. But unlike some people who get labeled as brutally honest (i.e., their truth tends to hurt), I feel that if you deliver your blunt honesty with compassion and respect (i.e., tact) you will not be brutal and ideally you may be helpful.
Being too tactful (without bluntness) has it’s own set of problems. This approach often results in a wishy-washy delivery of what you think the person wants to hear. Inside you’re thinking I wish I could just tell them the truth, but what comes out is a round-about soft-ball that doesn’t really get things resolved. How much time is wasted in your life having misdirected communication because you’re trying to be tactful. If someone asks for your opinion, or you are in a position to offer helpful wisdom or advice – do it quickly, compassionately, and be succinct!
That leads me to my other favorite word when it comes to communication between people – succinct. Succinct means: “marked by brevity and clarity; concise.” Succinct goes beautifully hand-in-hand with bluntness, as both imply quick or brief, and being succinct when you’re being tactfully blunt is helpful as you won’t overkill your message. Get to the point, deliver your message with kindness (even when it’s constructive criticism) and then stop talking and let your words sink in. (Again, if our current leader could only follow this advice.)
So the next time you need to be honest about something of importance to you or another person, be tactfully-blunt, and succinct, and you will enjoy a quicker resolution and likely receive more appreciation and respect from those around you.